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Kraftwerk - Kraftwerk 2 CD (album) cover

KRAFTWERK 2

Kraftwerk

 

Progressive Electronic

3.18 | 74 ratings

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Neu!mann
Prog Reviewer
3 stars The second Kraftwerk album is one of only two performed by just the core duo of Ralf and Florian (the other was titled exactly that), and the lack of any collaborators may explain the more uniform minimalism of this effort compared to the scattershot Krautrock grunge of their 1970 debut.

The stripped-down sound was also a reflection of the unsettled state of the band at the time. More than on any other Kraftwerk album there's a distinct connection here with the kindred Düsseldorf pioneers of NEU!, whose first album followed this session two months later. You can see it in the parallel pop-art simplicity of the cover design, and in the collage of Polaroid photos inside the original gatefold sleeve. And you can hear it in the absence of Michael Rother and Klaus Dinger, interim bandmates of Ralf and Florian before leaving to pursue their own destiny.

With the group suddenly reduced to a twosome, and without the benefit of an actual drummer, the new album would become a prototype slice of dark, almost industrial electronica, miles away from anything resembling the bouncy techno-pop of later incarnations. It's still weird to hear guitars as the primary instrument on a Kraftwerk album, conspicuously on Side Two, in the distorted radio identification signal of "Strom" and the ambient monochrome drift of "Wellenlange".

But the two remaining men-machines were still beating the air(waves) for a stable identity beyond that familiar traffic cone logo, testing vague ideas instead of performing solid compositions. The new music had more internal logic than it did on their debut, but still lacked a clear sense of direction, with only one promising signpost to the future: the (almost) side-long "Kling Klang", a title that would resonate through Kraftwerk lore in more ways than one.

Without the crutch of synthesizers (beyond a primitive rhythm box) the pair was forced to experiment with more organic sounds, like the evocative bells and gongs heard at the top of the track. But once the music reaches cruising speed fans should recognize an obvious ancestor of "Autobahn", lacking only the structure and discipline of that breakthrough hit, still three years away at the time. The random tempo changes are in irritation, but less so than the entire next track "Atem": three long minutes of labored electronic respiration (and nothing else).

Research and development of this sort can often be rewarding, with a little help from a sympathetic listener. "Kraftwerk 2" wasn't quite the light bulb moment Ralf and Florian were aiming for, but the album deserves more consideration than they've given it themselves.

Neu!mann | 3/5 |

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